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Arts, Farm, and Forestry; Oh My!

What’s new this year for the Arts at Fort Mill Cooperative Preschool?Here’s the inside scoop! and we haven’t left anyone out!

In addition to the outdoor studio/tiny house garden, we also have an indoor studio space.

Why did we do this? And, how does an art studio help children meet developmental milestones and prepare for Kindergarten?

Excellent questions. We evaluate the children three times a year via the Ages and Stages Questionnaire and/or formal assessment. We use these tools to guide our instruction and we incorporate SC Early Learning Standards into our curriculum. This may seem like more than enough effort to provide the highest standards of care and education, and it is. BUT we want to do even more!

As children collaborate in the studio and play outdoors, teachers note what the children are naturally curious about and layer that into lesson planning. When children are actively engaged and genuinely interested in what they are learning, they are like little sponges.

We want to capitalize on every tool at our disposal to prepare children for the future. Children, especially young children learn best through hands-on activities rather than sit and listen exercises.

So we have dedicated ourselves to continuing to take our curriculum to the next level.

Infant Enrichment Programming

Infants will continue to receive art and music in their classroom this year, but we have new instruments that have been donated and Ms. Elizabeth, our artist-in-residence, will visit regularly to play music and/or facilitate expressive arts with the babies alongside the infant teachers.

This curriculum is a beautiful tool to help babies meet individual developmental milestones while being actively engaged and having fun.

Preschool Enrichment Programming

For our preschool program, children will have weekly visits to the studio with Ms. Elizabeth and thanks to a generous community member, we have over $10,000 in new studio equipment to use in the new year. Our students will have access to art forms and experiences like no other. In addition to weekly studio visits, guest teaching artists will visit throughout the year to share their art, music, and performances.

WOW! are we excited!!

Other additions to our curriculum include integrating farm and forestry into our daily curriculum.

Each classroom has a farm “chore” for the new year. Tasks include jobs like watering the garden, weeding, planting seeds, harvesting, feeding the outdoor turtles at the pond, watering the outdoor rabbits, and feeding the chickens. (Please note: Due to DHEC regulations our farm remains an observational farm as opposed to a “petting farm.”)

Think of all the skills they will practice and SC Early Learning Standards we can meet through these experiences! Language development, spatial reasoning, problem solving, observational skills, and one of the most elusive skills to work on; social emotional development.

And then, there is the forest!

Did you know we have an actual forest on the property?

We will be harvesting vines to create woven arts, creating paper out of pest plants, such as kudzu, and learning to respect nature. Our school is a certified Wildlife Habitat, and our community of learners will practice respect for all living things. Little lessons like why we do not pick the flowers, can blossom into full discussions and activities. What animals and insects make a home in the flowers or depend on them for a source of food? What can we do if we cannot pick them? We can draw them, photograph them, paint them, sing a song about them, and much more if we use our imaginations and stimulate those cognitive skills.

TK will have a weekly Forest Day at McDowell Nature Preserve to expand on what we learn in our sweet little forest space.

Our Afterschool Program is getting a total makeover.

It is now an Arts, Farm, and Forestry Afterschool Program. Headed up by Ms. Elizabeth and in collaboration with Ms. Sheri, a master horticulturist and naturalist of over 30 years, this program brings the arts, farm and forest together to make every afternoon special.

Children will still receive homework help and snack, but they will also have time in the art studio, on the farm and in the forest. Weekly STEAM challenges help sharpen elementary student skills, like math, science, and reading, in a fun and challenging way. We will also travel to McDowell Nature Preserve monthly to enjoy the “big” forest.

With all this new, messy, outdoor fun, it imperative that children are dressed appropriately for both the outdoors and being in the studio. **This means clothes that can get dirt and paint on them and dressing children in weather appropriate attire.

**For Afterschool students, farm clothes and shoes to be kept in cubby at afterschool so that we protect children’s nice school clothes.

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